Young people leaving the care system in Milton Keynes will be given the support they need, thanks to a £45,000 grant from Buckinghamshire Freemasons to the charity Volunteering Matters
The grant, which comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), will fund the award-winning Grandmentors programme, which will see volunteers aged 50 and over trained to provide mentoring for young people leaving care during their transition into adulthood and independence.
Every year 10,000 young people over the age of 16 leave care in the UK. More than 60 per cent were taken into care due to abuse or neglect, and many have grown up without the significant personal and developmental benefits of a grandparent figure in their lives. The Grandmentors project is inspired by the accepting and nurturing relationship between a young person and a grandparent. This life changing volunteer programme is already running in six areas across the UK, and has now come to Milton Keynes.
The launch event for the project, held at Milton Keynes Civic Chambers, was in partnership with Computer Xplorers Bucks. Attendees got involved in Lego robotics and coding, which helped potential mentors and mentees to meet each other in a relaxed, fun and innovative way.
Oonagh Aitken, Chief Executive of Volunteering Matters, said: ‘We’re very grateful to Buckinghamshire Freemasons for their generous grant, which will help young people leaving the care system. Our vision is that every care leaver in the country has access to a Grandmentor, should they choose, and we’re deeply thankful to the Freemasons for helping us to work towards that vision.’
Phil Blacklaw, from Buckinghamshire Freemasons, said: ‘I’m very pleased we’re able to help fund the Grandmentors programme. Young people leaving care are already most likely to have been victims of neglect and abuse in childhood and they then find themselves on their own at 18 years of age with little or no help from anyone. Giving them someone to rely on at that crucial stage can be life-changing.’
Buckinghamshire Freemasons have presented Thames Valley Air Ambulance with a grant of £4,000
Thames Valley Air Ambulance provides emergency medical care 365 days a year, up to 19 hours per day, for around two million people who live, work and travel in Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire. Their paramedics, doctors and pilots are highly trained and ready for any eventuality, delivering advanced care by road as well as by air, night and day, all year round.
Since opening in 1999, Thames Valley Air Ambulance has evolved from being a fast method of transporting patients to hospitals, to the current model of care which brings hospital level treatment to the scene of an incident. Equipped with the iconic red helicopter, four critical care response vehicles, specialist doctors, paramedics and pilots, cutting-edge technology and advanced medication, they are at the frontline of saving lives.
The grant, which was donated by the Masonic Charitable Foundation, will go towards funding the service, enabling their helicopter and critical care response vehicles to reach more people across Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire. They provide advanced training for their paramedics and doctors, using specialist equipment such as a state-of-the-art simulation suite and real-life manikins.
The simulation suite enables the crews to practice treating patients in a variety of different emergency scenarios, replicating the conditions they would find in real life including noise, weather and smells.
Hugh Douglas-Smith, Buckinghamshire’s Deputy Provincial Deputy Grand Master, Phil Blacklaw, Assistant Grand Master, Andrew Hough, MCF Representative, and Mike Clanfield, Provincial Charity Steward, attended the Air Ambulance office based in Stokenchurch. Adam Panter, Director of Operations, then gave them an insightful demonstration of the simulation suite, explaining how the service works and who they help.
Focused on helping secondary school students at risk of exclusion, Jamie’s Farm brings together farming, family and therapy. Alex Smith takes a trip to the charity’s new site in Monmouth to find out how a grant from Freemasons is helping to cultivate change in disadvantaged children
Thirty-five children will be excluded from school in the UK today. Of those, more than 99 per cent will leave without five good GCSEs and so will struggle to be accepted for post-16 apprenticeships or training. Each of these will cost the taxpayer £350,000 during their lifetime.
The figures come from the Institute for Public Policy Research and the Ministry of Justice, but Jamie’s Farm wants to change the status quo, ‘to enable disadvantaged young people to thrive academically, socially and emotionally’. The charity was founded in 2005 by Jamie Feilden, a former history teacher at Manor School in Croydon. Frustrated with the bad behaviour of some pupils, Jamie conducted an experiment. He brought in some lambs from his family farm in Wiltshire, set up pens in the playground and tasked his students with looking after them.
Amazingly, the worst-behaved seemed to benefit the most, becoming calmer and more focused. So several months later and helped by his mother, Tish, a psychotherapist who’d worked with children all her life, Jamie’s Farm opened its barn doors for the first time.
Thirteen years on, the charity has grown into a national organisation, with facilities in Bath, Hereford, London and Monmouth – and a fifth opening in East Sussex in April 2019. A lot has changed in the last few years, but according to Ruth Young, education manager and resident mother hen of Jamie’s Farm Monmouth, the curriculum is still the same.
‘We have three principles: farming, family and therapy,’ says Young. ‘Each school identifies specific objectives for the kids before they arrive. Sometimes it’s better self-regulation, with others it’s better wellbeing or more self-belief.’
ROUTINES AND RELAXATION
Once the young people have signed a contract forbidding mobile phones and sugary snacks, the week-long residential begins in earnest. The farm hands start at 7:30am, their first task being to prepare breakfast, often using ingredients from the farm garden. Once they and their teachers have eaten together, they start the first activity, which could be anything from feeding animals to chopping wood. Then it’s time for lunch, followed by an hour-and-a-half walk, dinner, evening entertainment, and finally, bed.
It’s a strict routine, but the children are given time and space to communicate their feelings. This is often done during group sessions, with students giving ‘shout-outs’ to others for commendable actions, such as bravery, or simply doing something they didn’t want to. For more sensitive issues, one-on-one conversations are offered by the farm’s therapy coordinator. They’ll often talk about what’s going on at home; what’s bothering them. This information is shared with the child’s teacher, who follows it up with appropriate parties to provide support. After the residential, there’s a follow-up programme, including visits to the child’s school, to ensure each student achieves their potential.
‘Each school identifies specific objectives for the kids before they come here. Sometimes it’s better self-regulation, for others it’s better wellbeing or better self-belief’
THE POWER OF RESPONSIBILITY
The results have been extraordinary. From 2017 to 2018, more than half of Jamie’s Farm participants stopped being at risk of exclusion just six weeks after going on the residential; 56 per cent showed increased engagement and 66 per cent showed improved levels of self-esteem. And six months later the percentages are even more impressive.
‘It’s about giving responsibility to young people who’ve never had it before,’ says Young. ‘A lot of them have never seen the countryside before, let alone a farm. But they love it,’ she says, pointing to Hannad, a student trying – successfully, in the end – to catch a chicken.
‘It’s been fun; we eat together and talk about how we’re feeling and give shout-outs to people who we’ve seen doing good work. I was a bit nervous at first, but we’ve all bonded now. I feel more confident talking about myself,’ explains Hannad, a year-11 student at Harris Academy in Battersea, London.
‘Even within the first day, we notice a change,’ says Dave Pearson-Smith, senior visit coordinator at Jamie’s Farm. ‘By the end of the week, the difference can be like night and day. They stand up straighter, they look healthier – it’s extraordinary.’
On a tour of the farm, Young points out the garden, kitchen, equipment shed and woodworking area – much of which has been facilitated by the £39,000 grant from Monmouthshire Freemasons, which came through the Masonic Charitable Foundation. ‘Wellies, overalls, waterproofs, gardening tools – a lot of this is down to the grant,’ says Young. ‘Some young people arrive at the farm without proper clothing, but thanks to the Freemasons, we can say, “We’ll take care of everything.” We’re very grateful for their support.’
‘The grant has paid for a lot of what the young people interact with on the farm. It’s fantastic’
MONEY WELL SPENT
‘It’s made a massive difference,’ says Katie Francis, fundraising and volunteer manager for Jamie’s Farm. ‘The grant will cover all our student activity costs each year, such as games and clothing for the young people, pet food, seeds, art materials, woodworking tools… but it’s also our running costs. The grant has paid for a lot of what the young people interact with on the farm. It’s fantastic.’
Richard Davies, Provincial Grand Master of Monmouthshire, says that supporting Jamie’s Farm was an obvious choice. ‘I visited the farm with the Deputy and the Provincial Treasurer, and we were so impressed with what we saw,’ he says. ‘We pledged that we will give them whatever support we can.’
In the last 20 years, Monmouthshire Freemasons have given over £600,000 to local causes, and are always looking for new ways to support their Province. ‘We noticed some dilapidated beehives on the farm,’ says Richard, ‘so we’re funding their replacement and offering training so the staff can maintain their bee stocks, perhaps producing their own jars of honey with the masonic logo on them.’
As for Jamie’s Farm, it will continue cultivating change in children who need it most. ‘When my teacher mentioned Jamie’s Farm I thought, “I’m not going to enjoy this… no phone, no sugary drinks, no TV,”’ recalls Ellie, a year-11 student from Harris Academy. ‘On my first day, I was like, “What am I going to do?” But I’ve enjoyed it so much. Before I came here I always felt like I had someone on my back, but now I feel like most of my worries have gone. I’ll just look at a view and think… it’s all so beautiful.’
For more information and to make a donation, visit www.jamiesfarm.org.uk
With the number of people experiencing loneliness in later life on the rise, the Masonic Charitable Foundation is committed to tackling the issue, as Chief Executive David Innes explains
We’re approaching the end of another year during which Freemasons have supported each other and members of their local communities through charitable work at both lodge and Provincial level, as well as through the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF). This year, your charity has supported around 5,000 Freemasons and their family members alongside 500 local and national charities – all thanks to your enduring support and generosity.
I hope that for most of us, the festive season means spending cherished moments with our families and catching up with friends. As diaries fill up, it can sometimes be a challenge to visit everyone we would like to see before the New Year. In contrast, for many older people, Christmas can be blighted by a deep sense of loneliness.
A HELPING HAND AT CHRISTMAS
Almost one million older people will spend Christmas Day alone this year, with only their television for company. The population is not only growing in size but also ageing; this means the number of people experiencing loneliness as they get older is increasing. More than half of people aged 75 and above live alone and 200,000 of them will not have had a single conversation with a friend or family member in the last month. As well as age, factors such as poor health and disability can also contribute to a sense of isolation.
Through grants to local and national charities, Freemasonry is committed to tackling the issues of loneliness and social isolation in later life – and that doesn’t only apply to Christmas. We are excited to announce a new partnership between the MCF and 13 local Age UK branches that will support 10,000 people. It is our hope that the older people supported by this new initiative will live happier, healthier and more sociable lives.
Within the masonic community, we are lucky to have a fantastic system of almoners looking out for those who are lonely, as well as those who are struggling with financial, health, family or care-related issues. Their work and our own is bolstered by a dedicated network of Freemasons including charity stewards, Visiting Volunteers, fundraisers and Festival Provinces, working together to help us spread goodwill this festive season and throughout the rest of the year.
Finally, I should like to take this opportunity to thank you for making our work possible, to remind you that we are your charity, and to urge you to get in contact with us should you need help.
Our online impact report celebrates all that Freemasonry and the MCF have achieved together this year. You can view it now at www.mcf.org.uk/impact
Essex Freemasons have approved a grant of £40,000 to YMCA Thames Gateway to help fund an 'Early Years' project designed to help hundreds of children with learning difficulties across the Boroughs of Barking & Dagenham and Havering
The money, donated via the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), will be used to cover the salary of a Family Inclusion Officer, a key member of staff who will help deliver the programme working alongside the Early Years Team.
The YMCA, based in Romford, provides accommodation and health and wellbeing projects as well as training and education to young people and the wider community. Through its Early Years Services, the charity currently works with over 500 children through different pre and after school clubs across the Boroughs and in Kent.
‘We support a significant proportion of children with high levels of additional needs in our after-school clubs in Havering and Barking and Dagenham', said Emma Middleton, Fundraising Manager. 'A large percentage of children accessing our Romford YMCA after-school club have a range of special needs including speech and language impairments, complex behavioural difficulties or universal delayed development.
‘This £40,000 grant from Essex Freemasons will make a huge difference to our work allowing us to pay for staff experienced in this kind of work who will ensure that we can maintain support for disadvantaged children and their families.’
Through the Early Years programme the YMCA aim to improve children’s educational achievement and development and support them to achieve greater outcomes. The scheme is tailored to the individual needs of each child, focusing on four key areas: better physical health, language development, understanding and expressing emotions and mathematics.
The programmes are offered free of charge to families and incorporate a range of accessible, fun activities, workshops and resources for children with specific needs identified by the Early Years staff team.
Rodney Bass, Provincial Grand Master for Essex Freemasons, commented: ‘I am delighted that we have been able to make this grant to the YMCA to allow it to continue and expand its Early Years programme.
‘Such donations are a key part of our desire to work more closely with the community across Essex to provide charitable funding where it is most needed. Our members donate more than £1 million every year to good causes particularly in those area where we can really make a difference. This is one such example.’
As well as covering staffing costs the funding will also enable the YMCA to engage parents in workshops and produce newsletters and learning materials tailored to their children’s needs. This will provide parents with the essential tools to support their children’s educational development, more effectively engage with them in their home environment, and support their children’s developmental needs.
Buckinghamshire Freemasons have donated £1,300 to the Buckinghamshire Military Museum Trust, which will be used to purchase a fully computerised ‘Modes’ system to enable them to document and record exhibits preserved in Buckingham Old Gaol Museum
Andrew Hough, Buckinghamshire’s Masonic Charitable Foundation representative, presented the donation from the Bucks Masonic Centenary Fund to Lt Col Simon Wilkinson, Chairman of the Buckinghamshire Military Museum Trust, who also received a further donation from Mark Buckland of Grenville Lodge No. 1787.
The grant will allow the trust to meet Arts Council Accreditation requirements and enable those interested in stored items to access them and increase knowledge and accessibility for the public.
The Buckinghamshire Military Museum Trust exists to preserve and perpetuate the traditions of the former County Regiments raised in Buckinghamshire, including the Royal Buckinghamshire Yeomanry/ Hussars, The Royal Bucks (King’s Own) Militia, The Buckinghamshire Battalions and other auxiliary military forces. It does this to contribute to the understanding and appreciation of their role in the cultural heritage of the county.
It is interesting to note that Buckinghamshire’s first Provincial Grand Master, the 3rd Lord Carrington, was Colonel of The Royal Bucks Kings Own Militia from 1881 to 1886. In fact, Carrington Lodge No. 2421 is named after him.
The Masonic Centre in Buckingham was part of the Royal Bucks Hussars headquarters and is still decorated with 19th century Royal Bucks Hussars musicians’ swords.
Freemasons’ Hall in Leicester hosted a wide range of charities and good causes from all over the Province of Leicestershire and Rutland, as £60,875 was presented to benefit the local community and those in need
The donations were presented by the Provincial Grand Master, David Hagger, who was accompanied by the Lord Mayor of Leicester, Ross Grant.
Leicester-based Reunite International who provide advice and support to parents whose children have been abducted overseas or parents accused of International parental abduction, received a donation of £1,000 which will go towards the replacement of ageing telephone and computer systems. As explained by Reunites Holly Whatsize, Leicester is the largest city outside of London where child abductions in these circumstances takes place, with 22 new cases in Leicester this year alone. Holly added: ‘We take on average 500 to 600 new cases each year.’
Chris Gatfield, of the Dove Cottage Day Hospice, who provide day care respite for those suffering from terminal illnesses, was presented with a donation of £6,800 to help support over 100 families a week who are suffering from cancer and other long term conditions throughout North West Leicestershire and Rutland.
Members of St Simon and St Jude Lodge No. 8279, who meet at the Masonic Hall in Hinckley, were pleased to join with the Masonic Charitable Foundation in presenting cheques totalling £5,800 to The Air Ambulance Service.
Brian Moore from the The Air Ambulance Service said: ‘The children’s helicopters transfer sick children from one hospital to another who specialises in that particular case.’
In closing the presentation service, the Lord Mayor said: ‘on behalf of the City of Leicester, I would like to thank the Freemasons’ for supporting all of the amazing charities here today.’ David Hagger summarised by thanking the Lord Mayor, all of the charities present and those Freemasons’ involved in the fund raising efforts.
Essex Freemasons have approved a grant of £15,000 to the County’s Cricket Foundation to help fund a programme to develop wheelchair cricket, enabling people with a disability to take an active part in the sport
The money, donated via the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), will enable the Essex Cricket Foundation to help develop the skills of disabled cricketers, particularly children and adapt the cricketing environment for all levels of ability.
The grant will particularly cover the cost of a specialist Wheelchair Cricket Coach who will be employed to run the sessions for the project. Currently, there are between four to 10 players attending regular sessions and the aim is to get a core of 10 to 12 taking part each week and to gets sessions going at further locations in Essex.
Rodney Bass, OBE, Provincial Grand Master for Essex Freemasons, commented: ‘We have seen through the Invictus Games that wheelchair users are capable of anything which is why I am particularly delighted to have been able to make this donation on behalf of our members.
‘It will help those with disabilities to overcome obstacles that have previously prevented them taking part in the sport and I hope that wheelchair users who enjoy cricket will take advantage of this opportunity to learn the more practical skills via the Essex Cricket Foundation.’
Wheelchair cricket is a new format of the game played indoors. The game is designed to be played all year round by participants who require sport wheelchairs. Essex Cricket Foundation is now looking at venues across the County that already have these chairs to encourage as many as possible to take part.
Patrick Ward, Community Engagement Manager for Essex Cricket, added: ‘The basic equipment for wheelchair cricket includes plastic stumps, a compound rubber ball, fielding aids, cones and an adapted bat.
‘The bat is a shorter version of a standard cricket bat and the handles will be such that it will suit both one handed and two handed batsmen. The bat can also be lightweight and will reduce the degree of difficulty for the batsmen to score runs. Now that we have this Grant from Essex Freemasons it will help us expand the sport to wheelchair users and make a huge difference across the County.’
Wheelchair cricket sessions will be held at established sports centres which are fully accessible. The Foundation will seek to work in partnership with centres, when setting up sessions, to keep the costs of hiring the venues down.
The Foundation does not currently charge for sessions to avoid excluding children who might otherwise not be able to afford to take part and while that may change in the future (to cover hall hire costs) this grant will enable the Cricket Foundation to continue to offer free sessions for the foreseeable future to encourage people to try the sport.
Around 200 West Lancashire Freemasons and their partners enjoyed a ‘grand day out’ at a charity event staged at the very top of their Province, in the town of Grange-over-Sands, and raised £2,500
The very appropriately named Cumbria Grand Hotel was taken over for the evening with the ticket price including overnight accommodation, which was supported by the Provincial Grand Master of West Lancashire Tony Harrison, together with his wife Maureen.
The themed ‘Black and White Ball’ started with a ‘Fizz Reception’, followed by a four-course dinner, a spectacular firework display and then dancing into the early hours to the ten-piece band, ‘Soul Survivor’. To keep the party goers on their feet till late, a ‘Lancashire Hot Pot’ supper was served around midnight.
Organiser Richard Wilcock, who is the local charity steward, was delighted with the success of the event and paid tribute to the immense help given to him by his wife, Jackie. He said: ‘We’ve had yet another fantastic night, well supported not only by our local members but also by our friends from across Morecambe Bay in the Lancaster masonic group.
‘This year the event has raised at least £2,500 for charity and has been so popular that we are considering extending it to run over two nights next year.’
The Province of West Lancashire is currently hosting a festival in support of the Masonic Charitable Foundation, ending in 2021.
East Kent Freemasons have donated £4,000 to the Kent Surrey Sussex Air Ambulance service
As an independent charity, they strive to save lives by providing the best possible medical care every minute of the day, every day of the year, which means every donation they receive is vital. Last year alone, they were called out to help over 2,000 people in life-threatening conditions.
On 30th October 2018, the Provincial Grand Master of East Kent, Neil Johnstone, presented a cheque to the Kent Surrey Sussex Air Ambulance service at Rochester Airport for £4,000. The grant was donated by the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) and has brought the total Masonic support given to the Air Ambulance Service to over £4 million since 2007, supporting over 22 Air Ambulances across England and Wales.
Presenting the cheque to the Air Ambulance crew, Neil said: ‘Words will never truly describe the life changing differences that you make to the people of our local communities who call upon your services. I am certain that many people today are grateful to you and we are glad that we can help to support the service now and in the future.’
The grant from the MCF was co-ordinated through the main charity for the Masonic Province of East Kent, the Cornwallis East Kent Freemasons' Charity. Supporting Neil from the charity were the CEO Peter Rhodes, Chairman Pat Thomas, and the Head of Charities for East Kent, Mark Bassant.